Italy kept up their incredible run of form with a 2-1 victory over Belgium in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and will play Spain in the last four.
Nicolo Barella bagged the opener before Lorenzo Insigne doubled the Italians’ lead. Romelu Lukaku pulled one back from the spot but Roberto Martinez’s golden generation missed out on glory once again.
Belgium were without superstar forward Eden Hazard after the Real Madrid star failed to overcome a hamstring issue. Jeremy Doku took his place as the only change from the victory over Portugal.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini was boosted as captain Giorgio Chiellini recovered from injury to replace Francesco Acerbi. And Federico Chiesa got the nod ahead of Domenico Berardi on the right wing.
Italy went into the match unbeaten in 31 games and looking solid under the former Manchester City manager. But Belgium began brightly, with Romelu Lukaku looking lively and dominant up front.
The Azzurri were pinned back early on but have enough tournament experience to know how to bide the time. And they only had to wait until the 13th minute to get the ball in the net.
However, Leonardo Bonucci’s first-time shot was ruled out for offside by VAR. Kevin de Bruyne shook off his injury to take his place in the side an tested Gianluigi Donnarumma on 22 minutes.
And three minutes later Lukaku forced another save from the Italian keeper. Italy responded but Chiesa’s shot was blocked and Insigne curled a right-footed effort just over.
The deadlock was broken just after the half-hour mark with a superb goal by Barella. Marco Verratti played in the Inter man who found the bottom corner with a low drive.
Italy began to dominate as the half wore on and were rewarded with a second goal on 44 minutes. Barella’s superb pass found Insigne but has finish past a diving Thibaut Courtois was even better.
But the Belgians are not the top-ranked team for nothing and they hit back straight away. Giovanni Di Lorenzo brought down Doku in stoppage time and Lukaku fired the spot kick down the middle to make it 2-1.
Italy make strong start
Italy came flying out of the traps after the interval, with Chiesa’s shot deflected wide. Jorginho then looked for a penalty under a challenge from De Bruyne on 57 minutes but the referee was having none of it.
Three minutes later Italy were fortunate to have their lead intact. Doku found De Bruyne whose angled pass picked out Lukaku but the powerful forward’s shot was cleared off the line by Leonardo Spinazzola.
Spinazzola was then in tears as he was stretchered off after picking up a nasty-looking muscle injury. As the match entered the last 10 minutes, Italy showed their class by slowing things down.
Belgium tried their best but to get on terms but Italy’s defence was just too disciplined. They are now unbeaten in 32 games and are looking a strong bet to go all the way this time around.